New Jersey judge who told rape victim she should have 'closed your legs' may be suspended
An ethics committee's recommendation to the state Supreme Court in the case of Superior Court Judge John Russo was released on Wednesday.
A three-month, unpaid suspension has been recommended by an ethics committee for a New Jersey judge who told a woman she could have "closed your legs" to prevent her sexual assault, according to reports.
The committee's recommendation to the state Supreme Court in the case of Superior Court Judge John Russo was released on Wednesday. Russo sits on the bench in Ocean County in southern New Jersey. However, he has been on administrative leave since 2017, according to CTV News.
Embattled Superior Court Judge John F. Russo Jr. on Wednesday calmly testified before the state Advisory Board of Judicial Conduct, explaining his reason for asking an alleged rape victim if she kept her legs closed. https://t.co/xczxieH6pj via @AsburyParkPress @KHopkinsapp— Amanda Oglesby (@OglesbyAPP) October 18, 2018
The woman in the case had reportedly appeared before Russo in 2016 and sought a restraining order against a man who she claimed sexually assaulted her. However, when the woman described her encounter with the man, Russo asked her: "Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”
When the woman said she knows one method is to run away, Russo interjected, saying: "Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?” The exchange between the two was recorded in the court transcript.
Russo, in court filings and at a hearing, disputed that he violated judicial rules, saying he was just seeking more information from the woman and was not attempting to humiliate her.
The committee, in its recommendation on Wednesday, wrote that Russo's conduct was "not only discourteous and inappropriate but also egregious given the potential for those questions to re-victimize the plaintiff."
The panel also said that Russo violated rules of conduct on other occasions, including when he ruled on an alimony case in which he acknowledged he knew both parties. According to the complaint, Russo reversed an order by another judge who had issued a bench warrant for the man unless he paid $10,000 in back alimony. Russo, however, reduced this amount to $300.
The panel, in addition to the suspension, also recommended that Russo should be required to attend training on "appropriate courtroom demeanor.” Ahead of a final hearing on the matter in July, Russo will be given a chance to respond to the panel's recommendation.